I usually hear them before I see them. The Evening Grosbeaks are back!
It is really special when these beautiful birds from the northern forests decide to pay us a visit. In the 17 years we have lived in our house, they have come about 6 different winters. In fact, the first winter we lived here was when we saw them for the first time. I had no idea what they were!
The only thing predictable about Evening Grosbeaks is that they are unpredictable. They live in the northern forests, as well as at high altitudes throughout North America. In the summertime, Evening Grosbeaks eat insects and fruit as well as seeds. One of the main insects in their diet is the spruce budworm- a very destructive pest. In the winter they come to feeders like ours when their winter food source in the north- cones and seeds- is running low.
So if Evening Grosbeaks come to call- look out! A feeding frenzy will ensue. They love to eat sunflower seeds. Lots of them. And they come in big flocks. We have had flocks of up to 40 individuals some winters. This year I have counted 18 to 20 birds in the flock that frequents our feeders. Their favourite feeding station is, in fact, our deck railing, where they can all land and feed together.
Evening Grosbeaks are members of the finch family. Their beaks are very large (“grosbeak”) and powerful, which allows them to crack large seeds. The name Evening Grosbeak apparently comes from the fact that when they were first discovered, they were singing in the evening. They don’t just sing in the evening, but that’s ok. Listen to the call of the Evening Grosbeak on this bird sound webpage.
The female Evening Grosbeaks are mostly grey, with some yellow, black, and white on their wings. At our house, the females are always the first ones to come down to the feeders.
The male Evening Grosbeaks are yellow, black, and white. They have quite an impressive black head with a yellow visor over their eyes. When my kids were little they used to call these “motorcycle guys.” Both males and females have large yellowish beaks. When breeding season comes their beaks turn the most incredible lime green colour. That’s one way of knowing spring is coming.
Like I said in my previous blog on Winter Bird Feeding, if you set the table, you never know who might show up. I think we see these beautiful birds at our house because we have a really busy feeding area with lots of food. When we run out, I go buy more. The birds have me well trained. It’s worth it!